Cause Marketing Online: Engage with Integrity

The Internet is an especially tricky medium for cause marketing. Its enticing links, ads and images encourage users to flip from one website to another, with the promise of ever more interesting content on the next page, so it’s harder to maintain a visitor’s attention than in a magazine or newspaper – especially if the topic is serious.

Not-for-profit organizations are forced to find creative ways of keeping people engaged and on the page.

Websites hit home when they’re actually relevant to visitors (surprise!). Making it relevant helps combat the notion that, ‘If the cause doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t matter.‘ Empower people by showing they can make a direct difference. Target a particular demographic who might not normally listen, but whose input is important, such as young people. Use the site to tell stories.

Our client, Surrey Women’s Centre has done the latter beautifully, telling the stories of spousal abuse survivors on their Faces of Courage campaign website. The campaign is a clear-eyed examination of domestic abuse, telling the stories of women affected by this issue. Although it‘s a heavy subject, the site‘s positivity and strength are magnetic.

In this case, sarcasm or direct humour weren’t appropriate for the topic, but the site draws viewers in with engaging images and the compelling true stories of the affected women, how they suffered and how they escaped.

The same tact is required on social media. Tread carefully when posting about Remembrance Day or any other solemn subject. Same-day posts should be consistent — if you tweet about remembering the fallen earlier in the day, then don’t switch tone a couple hours later to tweet giddily about your upcoming sale. It reeks of insincerity and the two tweets will look hypocritical next to each other on your profile.

Some companies have gone the extra mile to provide help for causes using their online resources, especially during crises.

As Hurricane Sandy was making its way toward the East Coast, the New York Times and other news organizations brought down their online pay walls temporarily so that everyone with an Internet connection could access information about the storm.

Google has established an alert system as well as news pages and crisis maps showing where catastrophes have happened. Their online person finder helps people find their loved ones after a catastrophe.

These gestures demonstrate an organizations’s genuine interest in helping. They do, rather than just say because, for them, it's the right thing to do.